Those fortunate few who scored themselves a golden ticket to tomorrow’s West Cork derby have been a content lot this week.
Were it not for Government restrictions pertaining to outdoor gatherings, the Clonakilty grounds at Ahamilla would be bursting at the seams tomorrow afternoon. And while the delayed Phase 4 crowd limit of 500 would have been far more desirable than the present 200, it still wouldn’t have gone anywhere near catering for the demand for this fixture.
With spectator tickets numbering a hardly plentiful 80, those left empty-handed outnumber several times over the smiling minority in possession of an e-ticket.
Just as well so that the TG4 cameras will be present to provide live coverage of this latest installment in the Haven-Rosscarbery rivalry. Indeed, with such a glut of fixtures nationwide, that this game has been chosen for national broadcast is indicative of its stature.
“What we heard is that the tickets were sold out after seven or eight minutes,” says Castlehaven’s Conor Cahalane. “It was always going to be a tight affair for tickets.”
You could say the same about the expectant contest.
Cahalane is one of three brothers on the Castlehaven panel. And there’s a fair chance all three will start tomorrow, younger brother Jack, an All-Ireland minor winner with Cork last year, having stepped up to the senior panel this season.
As for the rest of the family, they, like so many others, will be watching on from home.
“Dad tried, but he was too late. TG4 will be his only option. The fact it is on television is great for grandparents at home and people who can't go to the game who have been going to games for the last 30 or 40 years.” Having yet to taste senior championship victory over Carbery Rangers, Conor is hoping to correct that record this weekend.
“Rosscarbery, they have had the edge on us in the last couple of games. It is a real West Cork group so we have three tough fixtures ahead. Ilen are playing Newcestown this weekend, that's another local derby, so it is going to be tough for any side to get off to a good start in this group.”
Tomorrow marks the beginning of a busy few weeks for Cahalane, hurling commitments with the Barr’s means he will be playing championship for six of the next seven weekends. But after four-plus months without a competitive fixture, he’s not complaining about this famine to feast transition.
“There are a hectic few weeks coming up, yeah, but this time two or three months ago, we thought there was going to be nothing so I am just glad to have the games. There are a few local derbies thrown in there (the Barr’s play the Glen this day week), fixtures you'd relish, and want to be involved in.
“Any club player around the country, all they want to be doing for the summer is playing games. It is great that you have a full summer of games and maybe on through the winter when the inter-county starts back.
“Recovery will be a huge part of getting through the next few weeks. Castlehaven and the Barr's have given us all the resources possible so there should be no excuses where recovery is concerned. It is just about being smart and not overdoing it.”
In the opposing corner tomorrow will be John O'Rourke. The Carbery Rangers forward is well acquainted with this particular West Cork rivalry, the 28-year old having featured in all seven senior championship meetings between the sides since their first engagement back in 2009.
He kicked three points from play during Rosscarbery’s 2019 and 2017 championship wins over Casltehaven, and a similar tally here would certainly help in their bid to make it three-in-a-row.
“Ross’ v Castlehaven is a big game, especially around West Cork. There’s a big rivalry there given we have played each other so many times in the last couple of years. There is massive excitement around the place ahead of this game,” says the Cork and Rosscarbery forward.
“Adding to the excitement is that there has been no football around the place in four months and this first game back is a big one. This fixture would have drawn a big crowd in Skibbereen last year.
“Either team doesn't really know their form because they have nothing to go on only a month's training and a few challenge games, whereas in other years you would have had a lead into it. We'll know after five or 10 minutes which team is at it or not.”